I struggle with this idea a lot. That life is watching everyone you love die. I can’t keep it out of my head. Ever since it occurred to me, it’s like a constant panic and depression lurking inside. A feeling of absolute helplessness or insecurity. Like ignorance and naivety were my shield, my security blanket, and now they’ve been ruthlessly stripped away so that safety and happiness feel like illusions. Like self-deception.
I didn’t use to think that way. Then, over the past few years, I lost more and more of the people I care about. Relatives, friends, and acquaintances. As a kid, I’d only lost one or two, and they were spaced out by years. Now, it was like Death had a monthly quota to fill, and only people I knew would do. People died of cancer and heart failure. They died of old age. They died in stupid, senseless accidents. And far too many of them died by choice.
I couldn’t deal with it. Can’t. Even now, sitting here writing this, my throat is closing up, and my eyes are filling. When deaths hit you one after the other, you don’t have time to adjust, to deal with the grief and anger. And after a while it hits you that this is your future: watching everyone you love die one after the other unless you’re lucky enough to go first.
That’s when the fear wraps around your heart. Any illusion of control disappears. There’s nothing to shield you from the helplessness any more, nothing to hold it at bay or defeat it because you know, without a doubt, that every single person you love is going to die and that no matter what you do, there’s no way to change that. Not one. Our future deaths are the only truly certain things in life.
As if that weren’t dark and depressing enough, the onslaught of deaths emphasized the fact that not only is everyone you love going to die, but you also have no idea when it’s going to happen. That epiphany has a great effect on the nerves. It maintains a constant level of anxiety, like an abused person flinching from a raised hand, expecting a blow.
Sometimes, you can hide it for a while. Push it down where it’s not as obvious or cover it with cushions to muffle the screaming. But it always comes back. You hear a song about loss. You watch a character die in a movie. Your grandparents talk about all the people they knew who are gone.
That’s when I really choke up. When I talk to the elderly, people have already lost their grandparents, parents, siblings, and most of their friends. Even thinking about losing my grandparents and parents is emotionally crippling to me. If I was an actress, I’d never have to worry about crying onstage. All I would have to do was picture my life after losing my family, and the tear faucet would be on.
It’s a problem. It’s a serious problem because I can’t fix the cause. It’s not something that’s going to go away or change. In fact, it’s only going to get worse the older I get. So what do I do? How do you deal with knowing that life is watching everyone you love die without getting so depressed and anxious that you ruin your own life?